Look around you. At work, at church. Chances are very good you'll see someone who's battling mental illness. Maybe you only need to look as far as the other side of the bed. … or the mirror.
Many Christians don't figure that mental illness could affect their marriages. But it does—in about the same proportions as with the general population. Each year, more than one in five Americans suffers from a clearly diagnosable mental disorder. And, Christian therapists add, more couples need to confront the whole issue rather than assume it's solely a spiritual problem.
Psychiatrist Ken Phillips treats many Christians who at one time thought the combination of a solid faith and a solid marriage made them invulnerable to mental illness. Phillips is founder and medical director of Alliance Clinical Associates, a Christian mental health center in Wheaton, Illinois. He points to three red flags in determining whether a person needs psychological help: degree, or severity, of the problem; duration of the problem; and level of disability inflicted.
To examine the issue of mental illness in Christian marriage, MP looks at the true stories of three people: Dennis, Linda, and Maggie.
Dennis and his wife, Pat, had worked for much of their adult lives as missionaries in the Caribbean, where they ran a Christian radio station. After years of service, the time came to close and sell the station.
At about that time, Dennis started feeling strange pains. He'd battled chronic back trouble for years, but this was different. Now the pain had spread. His stomach and abdomen hurt. His arms and hands tingled sometimes. His skin was flush on his face, neck, and chest. Sleep was hard to come by. Some days, the pain was so bad he couldn't sit up for more than ten minutes at a time.1